A split & a unification

By Jorge Jorquera

The Direct Action group was a small organisation of Melbourne- and Geelong-based activists who left the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) in June 2006, five months after its 21st Congress. Since that time the Direct Action group has focused on Latin America solidarity work (working with other Latin America solidarity activists to build the Centre for Latin America Solidarity and Studies); with the musical project The Conch to support trade union, environmental and other local struggles and events; establishing the Racism No campaign to defend African immigrants from racist government attacks; electoral campaigning; and participating in the development of various campaign publications, including setting up a web publishing service for left and progressive community organisations.

The Direct Action group has also collaborated with a wide range of left and progressive activist organisations, with the aim of participating in campaigns while also contributing to the development of a stronger revolutionary left — a left that in the longer term is capable of providing leadership in mass struggles and fostering the unity and combative capacity of all those exploited and oppressed under capitalism.

This perspective was increasingly rejected by the DSP, who elevated the Socialist Alliance into a permanent tactic that severely restricted the DSP’s collaboration with any left forces not in the SA, ultimately the entire far left in Australia. This tendency also caused the DSP to reduce mass work to front building — rather than seeking to lead movements and campaigns it preferred to “monitor” them and do campaign work “through the SA”.

The recent expulsion of the minority Leninist Party Faction (LPF) from the DSP provided the Direct Action group with the opportunity to advance a more ambitious perspective, aimed at rebuilding a revolutionary socialist organisation in Australia based on the programmatic tradition of the old DSP. However, the basis for the unity of the Direct Action group and the LPF is as much about current perspectives as it is about sharing history and the ideas of revolutionary socialism.

Like the LPF, the Direct Action group considers that the political situation in Australia is still marked by the working-class movement’s retreat dating back to the early 1980s, the result of the neoliberal offensive, compounded by the ideological retreat of much of the “broad left” in the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, while there are no signs as yet of the sort of persistent struggles and fightback against neoliberal capitalism that could provide the impetus for a new class-struggle leadership in the mass workers’ movement, there has been a growing number of localised struggles in many of the advanced countries, including Australia, since the late 1990s.

In the opinion of the Direct Action group, these struggles reflect the growing political crisis of neoliberalism, manifest most notably in the weak links of the imperialist chain. Like the LPF, the Direct Action group views this political crisis as having two outstanding features — the centrality for imperialist policy of waging war against “rogue” regimes and anti-imperialist movements in the Third World, particularly in the oil-rich Arab East; and the growing generalised and organised character of the anti-neoliberal rebellion in Latin America (at the centre of which is the first socialist revolution in the “post-Communist” era, unfolding in Venezuela, and its ally, socialist Cuba).

For the Direct Action group, like the LPF, the key political foci for an agenda of revolutionary propaganda and education that flow from this assessment, is the work socialists can do in the struggle against imperialist war and in solidarity with and in publicising the example of the living revolutions in Latin America.

In addition, we have to be prepared to join the struggles and present a revolutionary socialist perspective on the spectrum of issues that will emerge under the Rudd Labor government. As the Direct Action group explained in a statement issued on May 23: “A united organisation of the LPF and DA and its supporters would be capable of building a national organisation that could pursue this agenda of revolutionary propaganda in the short term, and play a constructive role in the much needed discussions and debates among the Australian left. We look forward to this possibility, and to testing out in action the perspectives we have outlined — recognising as all Marxists do, that the ultimate test of perspective is activity.”

[Jorge Jorquera joined the DSP in 1986. He played a leading national role in the fight against university fees during the Hawke Labor government, including numerous national coordinating roles and as a founding member of the national student organisation, Left Alliance. He was a founding member of the Direct Action group and is now a member of the national executive of the Revolutionary Socialist Party.]